New York (AFP) - A Minnesota judge ruled Friday that Prince's six siblings are the heirs to his estate, a key step in the long battle over the pop legend's fortune.
Kevin Eide, the judge in Carver County where Prince died suddenly last year at his Paisley Park estate, said that the "Purple Rain" star's heirs were his sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings.
"The heirs of the estate are determined to be Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John R. Nelson and Tyka Nelson," the order read.
In practical terms, the ruling will not immediately hand over Prince's fortune -- which is estimated to be worth up to $300 million -- to his siblings.
Instead, it starts a one-year process in which people who claim to be related to Prince can still make their appeals, but be definitively excluded if the judge does not accept their case.
The ruling comes nine days after a hearing in which the siblings pressed for a resolution, and after months of sometimes colorful claims by people who say they are Prince's descendants.
Among the claims received by the court were one from a woman who said she had a secret wedding to Prince in Las Vegas, and a little-known musician who alleged that Prince agreed on a tour bus to hand him his whole estate.
- New dispute with label -
The judge's ruling could also provide more clarity on control of Prince's legendary vault of unreleased songs, with question marks already rising over deals sealed since Prince's death.
The judge separately scheduled a hearing for May 31 to hear a proposal to rescind a contract between Prince's estate and Universal, the world's largest music label conglomerate.
Universal earlier this year announced with fanfare that it had secured the rights to Prince's catalog after the mid-1990s, when the singer exited rival label Warner, as well as unspecified recordings from Prince's earlier heyday.
But Comerica Bank and Trust, which had been assigned to handle the estate's interests, has requested that the $30 million contract be reviewed after objections from both sides.
Evidence in the case has been kept under seal, but Universal has asked for clarification on the size of the assets under the deal.
Complicating matters, only three of the heirs have been working with L. Londell McMillan, Prince's longtime lawyer who has advised the estate on deals.
Other siblings including Tyka have accused McMillan of mismanaging a tribute concert last year to Prince, charges that the lawyer denies.
Prince was a sworn foe of music industry conventions and in the mid-1990s wrote "slave" on his cheek and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol after Warner tried to control his prodigious output.
Prince reconciled with Warner late in his life and the label next month will put out a new edition of his icon 1984 album-soundtrack "Purple Rain," complete with previously unreleased tracks.
The pop legend died at Paisley Park in April last year from an accidental overdose of powerful painkillers.
The 57-year-old -- outwardly a model of health who did not drink, advocated a vegetarian diet and fired musicians who abused drugs -- left no will and had no living children who were recognized.